The Seattle Social Development project, a universal quasi-experimental intervention in the elementary grades, was designed to reduce risk and build protective strengths in schools, families, and children themselves. Long-term follow-up revealed multiple positive effects on mental health, functioning in school and work, and sexual health 15 years after the intervention ended (Hawkins, Kosterman, et al., 2005, 2008).
Preventive interventions in communities generally have two features. First, they target the prevention of an outcome in an entire population in the community, such as tobacco use among adolescents. Community intervention research provides a target of manageable size for testing whether such population-wide effects can be achieved. Second, these interventions target multiple influences on the behavior of interest, often through multiple channels. Community interventions are attractive because they can encompass all major influences on a behavior.
Most experimental evaluations of community interventions involve the prevention of adolescent use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs. These studies are discussed in the substance use section of Chapter 7, which focuses on disorder-specific prevention approaches.
Flay, Graumlich, and colleagues (2004) evaluated one comprehensive community intervention and a social skills curriculum for preventing multiple problems among early adolescents. A total of 12 poor predominantly African American schools in Chicago were randomly assigned to receive the social skills curriculum, a school/community intervention, or a health education control condition. The social skills curriculum was especially designed for African American young people. The school/community intervention added several elements to the social skills curriculum: (1) in-service training of school staff; (2) a local task force to develop policies, conduct schoolwide fairs, seek funds for the school, and conduct field trips for parents and children; and (3) parent training workshops. Both the social skills curriculum and the school/community intervention significantly reduced the rate of increase in violent behavior, provoking behavior, school delinquency, drug use, and recent sexual intercourse and condom use among boys compared with the control condition. The school/community interventions were significantly more effective than the social skills intervention on a combined behavioral measure. Girls, who generally had lower rates of problem behavior, were not affected by the program. A subsequent analysis showed that the effects were due to changes in the boys who were at highest risk (Segawa, Ngwe, et al., 2005).
Much remains to be learned about how to mount effective interventions in entire communities. The predominance of the single-problem focus